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PhD in Literature: Prerequisites, Requirements and Career Info

A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Literature program requires extensive study of historical and modern literary texts, such as novels, essays, poems and narrative documents. Get more insight into what these graduate programs entail and take a look at possible career options.

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Essential Information

A doctoral program in literature typically takes about 4-5 years to complete, and schools might offer specializations such as medieval literature, ancient Greek literature, and Italian literature. Students are encouraged to study literary material from several sources and nationalities. For this reason, most Ph.D. students studying literature must be fluent in at least one foreign language. As with most doctoral degree programs, a Ph.D. program in literature requires that students complete a dissertation to be defended and published.


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  • American Literature
  • British Literature

Ph.D. in Literature

Applicants to literature doctoral programs typically must have an undergraduate and master's degree in English literature or a related field, a proposal for a plan of study, and letters of recommendation. Some programs require that students complete an examination either at the beginning of their studies or at the midway point to demonstrate that they should be allowed to proceed. Common themes covered in literary doctoral degree programs include linguistic studies, literary conventions, and research methods. Common courses include:

  • Advanced literary criticism
  • Teaching literature
  • Interpretation
  • Ancient Roman and Greek literature
  • Mythology in literature
  • Early literary forms

Popular Career Options

The most common career choice for a graduate of a Ph.D. program in literature is a professor of literature at a university or college. Most doctoral degree students learn the methods of studying literature to teach those methods to others. Other possible career options include:

  • Literary critic
  • Author
  • Researcher
  • Academic consultant
  • Editor
  • Publisher
  • Literary agent

Students seeking their PhD in literature can expect to study a variety of historical and contemporary texts from around the world, an education commonly leading to a career as a professor of literature. Other career options include author, editor, researcher, and literary agent, among others.

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